FDNY absentee rate to cause cuts

December 1, 2009 3:37:35 PM PST
The FDNY is reducing firefighter staffing on 49 engine companies. The reduction is called for in accordance with the Uniformed Firefighters Association labor contract. The contract calls for a reduction if the overall firefighter absentee rate exceeds 7.5 percent on an annual basis.

Engine staffing will go from 5 firefighters, to 4, with the new cuts.

Firefighter medical leave rates have increased this year and reached 7.53% today, which allows the Department to reduce firefighter staffing from five to four on the 49 engines.

"Medical leave rates have been rising for several months and we repeatedly warned the UFA this was a problem that could again result in the staffing reduction as outlined in their contract with the city," said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

Scopetta added that the reduction in staffing will not affect fire response time which is at 4 minutes, the fastest in city history.

But the fire union says the cuts will put residents and firefighters at greater risk. It says studies have shown that such reductions double the time it takes to get water on the fire.

The department plans to review the leave rate again on Jan. 1.

This is the third time in the past seven years that the city has decreased engine company staffing due to high firefighter absentee rates.